It’s almost midnight. In Kuito, central Angola, a baby is dying of dehydration. Dr Wong Ting Hway labours to insert the intravenous drop but the baby’s skin is so dry it feels like plasticine.
Just as she gets the needle in, a bomb goes off. Ting Hway jumps. Luckily, the nurse who’s holding the infant jumps too… And the drip stays in. The baby lives.
Not quite a normal day in the life of a Singaporean doctor. But then, this is no ordinary Singaporean doctor.
The honour roll of Her World’s Young Woman Achiever of the Year reads like that of an over-achiever: Doctor, linguist, poet and humanitarian worker.
After graduating from Cambridge, she joined humanitarian aid organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF/Doctors Without Borders) to work in Third World countries and was sent to Angola.
In September 2002, she became the first Singaporean to join the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). She was on a mission to Nepal to assess the impact of civil war on medical services and give support to health posts and hospitals.
It’s a list that would make most of us look on with admiration but Ting Hway is very matter-of-fact about her accomplishments. Ask her, for example, what life amid gunfire was like and you get a simple answer: “Sometimes explosions sounded like they were very near us. But I got used to them.” She once woke up from sleep wondering if the noise that woke her up was thunder or bombing.